If you didn’t already know, me and fellow STS writer Taylor Armosino are both fans of the New York Knicks. We both agreed that this was one of the most fun seasons in the recent memory, and with a series with the Boston Celtics coming up, we decided to do a small chat. This chat took play right after the Knicks clinched the second seed in the East with a victory over Boston, so we didn’t touch upon Soloman Jones, the potential Coach Of The Year Mike Woodson, and Rasheed Wallace’s retirement.
Quentin: We’re number two! We’re number two! Good lord. How exciting has this Knicks season been? From Eddy Curry to Patrick Ewing, I give this season a Dave Debusschere. How about you?
Taylor: Can I give this season a Carmelo Anthony? I feel like this Knicks season has been reflective of his time in NY. The start of the year was similar to the post-trade Knicks. The team got off to a hot start and Melo was cooking. There was so much excitement around the team. The middle lull of the season was like last year’s lockout shortened year. The end of the season has been exciting – similar to how Carmelo’s had the best season of his career.
This Knicks season had 3 parts and Melo’s really had 3 different phases of his Knick career. First the team was 18-5, then average, now great again. He was the savior, he had a mediocre season along with the mediocre team last year and now this year he has been great.
Quentin: Almost like a musical! Act one was to bring us in with the early season excitement, Act two was to slightly temper our expectations, and Act three was to get us re-energized and excited about the season that was. Chandler was the rock that held everything together, Felton was that one actor who forgot a line from time to time, Iman Shumpert is that actor who jumped in mid show, and Carmelo was the lead actor. Speaking of Carmelo…
I don’t know if you like ranking players, but I do. Not only does it kill time, but it’s also interesting from the perspective of what people value more. With that in mind: Is Carmelo Anthony one of the top 10 players in the league right now? I feel like this has been one of his best seasons, and while I don’t know if he’s matured, I’d argue that he “gets it” now. He understands what he needs to do now. At power forward, he understands that he needs to take advantage of those slow-footed big men, he understands that he needs to battle for rebounds, and he (somewhat) understands that he has to be active on the defensive end. The two month dropoff in February and March was rough, but all things considered, do you think Melo is in that top 10?
Taylor: Oh god, you’re going to get me killed on Knicks twitter. Here’s what I’ll say about Melo:
He’s my favorite player in the league, hence my Knicks blog being named “Meloship of the Ring”. That being said, I’m not sure he’s a top 10 player, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say that he is. This conversation is interesting because it’s dependent on how much people A) value defense and B) value advanced metrics. I tend to be more of a hoops traditionalist, in that I think offense is 50% of the game and defense is 50% of the game. I can’t put Melo who s a +++ offensive player, but a – defender ahead of someone like Marc Gasol who is a ++ offensive player and a +++ defensive player. The counter-argument is that Melo can take over a game on offense whereas someone like Gasol can’t, but I still value Gasol more than Melo because he’s a more complete player.
Melo is interesting because he’s the most polarizing superstar in our game in terms of the eye test versus the advanced metrics. Metrics have long portrayed Anthony as less than a super star in terms of his efficiency and value to a team. However, the eye test suggests he’s one of the best players in basketball. While I value advanced metrics, I balance them greatly with the eye test. From a talent perspective, he’s one of the top 7 players in basketball. From a production standpoint, he’s not a top 7 guy. Ultimately I think that balances out. I’ve said I think Melo’s in the 12-17 range, closer toward’s the 12 range. An amazing playoff run would change my thinking, similar to Dirk’s playoff run two years ago. I will agree that this season Anthony’s been a top 10 player. I want to see if he can do it in the playoffs before I stick him in my top 10 overall.
Quentin: Heh. I’m going to make sure Knicks twitter reads that part. I ultimately agree with you. I think Carmelo is the ultimate advanced stats test, and this season, he’s been really good, enough for the advanced stats people to….relax a bit. Also, nice of you to bring up Marc Gasol, who I also think is in that 10-15 area. We can’t put Melo in front of Gasol, who’s been the best big man in the league this season. While I want nothing more than to put Anthony in that top ten stratosphere, I still see him as that perfect number 12 guy. When I do the rankings this summer, I’m going to put him there, I think. We’ll see. The playoffs might drop or boost him a bit.
Do you think we owe the Jason Kidd/Raymond Felton duo an apology? I was not a fan of either move this offseason, but both seem to have their fits. Felton is a good point guard for what the Knicks are attempting to do every night, and he was a good pick and roll partner with Chandler (the Knicks-Mavs game early in the season stands out for me). For Kidd? Love everything he’s provided. Even with his shooting percentages falling off a cliff in the middle of the season, his ability to be a pest and anticipate potential errors from the opponent has been one of the top four things I’ve loved from this Knicks season.
Taylor: Kidd has been a total shocker, but in fairness to myself the Knicks have used him differently than I envisioned. I thought he’d be running a lot of point, which hasn’t done. They’ve used him as an off-ball spot up threat and he’s shot the ball much better than I thought he could/would. I maintain that Felton is average, but he’s very valuable to this Knicks team. They need a point guard who can break down defenses in pick and roll game and dish to open guys. By far Felton’s biggest strength as a basketball player is his pick and roll game. He can split double teams, get to the hoop and he’s a great passer. Both players have been below average on defense, as expected, but offensively they’ve both been very important to the Knicks success.
Quentin: Alright. Let’s talk about “Mr. Pipe”….. J.R. has been everything and more at times this season. He’s also given me pause in trusting him at times this season. He’s been that flavor the Knicks needed this season. When Smith went to the basket in the Boston game, I was in awe. Along with that, those game-winners were just everything. Again, he was a victim of the swoon in the middle of the season, but recovered to help the Knicks garner a 14 game winning streak. What are your thoughts on Smith, and do you have fears of losing him this offseason?
Taylor: JR has been a joy to watch over the last month. I’m not that worried about losing him in the off-season. I think the Knicks can give him 4 years 24 mil and he loves playing here. Even with his successes, I highly doubt another team gives him more than that. This has been the best season of his career and it’s taken a coach he loves, a city he loves and teammates he trusts to get that out of him. He won’t get that elsewhere and I don’t think another team offers him more than what the Knicks can.
Quentin: Love that you mentioned that piece from the Knicks Wall on his pending free agency. I don’t want Smith to leave, but I wouldn’t be shocked if someone tried to lure him away. Someone might offer him 30 million. This is NBA GM’s were talking about.
I just want to say: J.R. Smith has been a joy to watch this season. I loved it when the Knicks got him last year. I love the fact that he turned his career around and turned into a respectable shooting guard. Not only that, but I think he’s the 6MOY, simply because of the production. He’s been the Knicks second best offensive player, and third best overall this season. You say that at the beginning of the season, and I think people scream 7th seed. As I stated, J.R.’s been everything and more this season, and I’m happy for them.
A couple rapid fire things: Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin, and Wally Szczerbiak. Thoughts?
Taylor: Shumpert: Complete beast. His flat top is almost as cool as his 40% three point shooting this year.
Kenyon: I thought Kenyon would be trash because he was bad with the Clippers last year. He’s invaluable now.
Quentin: No love for Wally? Ouch. Alright. Let’s shut it down. Give me your take on our upcoming playoff series with Boston.
Taylor: The Knicks are better than the Celtics so they should win in 5 or 6 games. Without Rondo, the Celtics don’t have a point guard who can penetrate consistently and hurt the Knicks. Garnett and Pierce still give me nightmares, but I think the talent discrepancy is so large between the teams that the Knicks should be okay.
Boston’s been using some weird big lineup lately with Pierce, Green and Bass as the 2-3-4 alongside Bradley and KG. It’s an interesting lineup, but I like the way the Knicks match up with that. They’ll have a mismatch at the 2 spot, whether it’s Prigioni, Shumpert or JR Smith, and likely at the 3 spot where Bass would be playing defense because of cross-matching. Melo would be guarded by Green (still advantage Knicks) KG would guard Chandler and Bradley would guard Felton. Those 2-3 spots are important spots in the Knicks offense as JR handles the ball and the 3 spot gets a lot of spot up looks.
We know the Knicks aren’t very good on defense, but Boston isn’t very good on offense either. Unless Pierce or Green get consistently hot for the whole series, Boston will struggle offensively. Even if they’re both hot offensively, that still might not be enough. With the Knicks weird double-teaming leaving shooters open, opposing teams do shoot well from three land. However, Boston doesn’t shoot the ball very well so I’m not that worried about that.